Corsican Cats

Riddle’s petrol head is whisked away to the world media drive for the new Jaguar EPace, and on Corsica’s variety of roads finds an accomplished and powerful drive as well the sleek looks you’d expect from this British manufacturer

Review by Marc Stickley

Ah, the Jaguar EPace. Smaller than the FPace, but inside, there’s not much to judge between them – some clever packaging has gone on here. This latest SUV offering from Jaguar builds on big brother’s success – last year the FPace sold as many units as all other models combined – and brings a crossover feel to the stable. In true Jag tradition, you get Space, Pace and Grace. Well, I think it’s a good looking car, even if you don’t like SUVs… but you have to wonder if the EPace pitches Jaguar Land Rover into an internal sales battle they don’t really need? Will the EPace snaffle customers away from the Evoque and Discovery Sport on the Land Rover side of house? It certainly makes for an interesting situation, but a lot will come down to personal preference as to which SUV gets your vote.

To get to know the EPace a little, Jaguar have flown journalists like me to the Mediterranean island of Corsica, to put the car through its paces and get a taste of things to come. So it’s an early flight from Farnborough TAG Airport (I could get used to the executive jet lifestyle) and a little over an hour later, we’re touching down on Corsica. A quick reveal video, some words from Jaguar’s Director of Design, Ian Callum and then a game of “pop the balloon to find your car” – before being led outside to quite the parade of EPaces.

For me, the EPace certainly ticks the boxes for appearance. Chunky where it needs presence, sleek where it doesn’t, Ian is rightly proud of this latest design creation. And why not? Design and image will sell more EPaces than dynamics. But dynamics are important to Jaguar – a sporting brand after all. All EPaces will be offered with variations of the 4 cylinder Ingenium family of engines. There will be two petrol motors offered, the 250 and 300 and three diesels, the 150, 180 and 240. You can opt for front wheel drive or all wheel drive, although the former is only available on the lower powered and lower pec cars. There will be two models, EPace or R-Dynamic each with four specification packs, standard (EPace or R-Dynamic), S, SE or HSE. There will also be a Launch Edition available – limited in time, rather than numbers. Think of the R-Dynamic as the more overtly sporty model, with more aggressive body kit and distinctive styling touches. With prices starting at £28,500 for a FWD D150, rising to nearly £51,000 for an R-Dynamic P300 AWD (or the Launch Edition), the EPace is certainly competitively priced. In fact, I think the entry level model will be in direct competition with the likes of Mazda’s CX-5 (£27,395 for a 150ps diesel FWD) and even NIssan Qashqais… I know where I’d prefer to put my money – here’s a hint: It’s British and has a cat on the grill…

So, you could opt to stick one to the Jones’s with a shiny new SUV on the drive. A Jaguar no less. But what would it be like to drive. Well, on the media launch in Corsica (I know, but somebody has to), I was behind the wheel of the slightly less entry EPace S D240 Auto, weighing in at £40,850. There were also P300s, but scrabbling for the keys of those in the morning was like chasing the end of a rainbow… the lower powered models certainly won’t have the extra shove of the D240, but Ian reckons you can find a sweet spot lower down the range, with less weight up front and still great dynamics.

Whilst some might opt for the 6 speed manual available lower in the range, most will select the 9 speed auto. It’s a fine ‘box, matching the diesel engine well when cruising. Sport mode seemed a little pointless – you don’t hold on to revs in a diesel, you surf the torque – but it did add an element of engine braking when we descended the mountain and thrashed about in our off-road antics. Not everyone is going to want to outdrag their SUV neighbour from the Waitrose car park, so the choice of power options is well spaced. I can only speak to the dynamics I felt at the launch in our D240 car. We tackled a variety of roads, from smooth motorways, through twisting mountain roads, right down to what felt like goat tracks in what was dubbed Jurassic Park – the off road test laid on before lunch on day one.

The EPace took it all in its stride, comfortable throughout. Drive select is via screen controls (not the button poking from other Jag models), with Dynamic mode eliminating what little body roll there was to start with, even up to distinctly un-SUV speeds. Down in the ruts, Comfort took the edge off the worst of the French island’s farm tracks and the all-wheel drive propelled us through some angles that most owner will NEVER see. In fact, on the topic of things EPaces will likely never do again, we forded a river to depths perhaps not sensible, ploughing on through with impressive wading ability. If you’re going to dress the part, you need to be capable and convincing – such is the logic from Jaguar.

The cabin is cleverly packaged, with cubby holes a plenty – sound boring? Well where you put stuff is important – phones, drinks, baggage, people. There’s room for four, maybe five six footer’s inside. You can tuck away two bottles of wine in the central cubby and get full sized drinks bottles in the doors. Your phone is cosseted in a recess up front, below the screens. So your stuff will be well catered for. You’re doing ok too – the seats are great, the seating position adjustable for me (6ft 3″) and my driving colleague (shorter by far). In fact, to just be able to jump in, find the controls where you need them and to navigate around the menu screens with ease say a lot. It made driving on the wrong side of the road an easy thing to do and when we were crashing through the undergrowth, made concentrating on keeping the bodywork intact a cinch. Accomplished is how it felt – carving through bends, climbing up dirt tracks or twisting down single track lanes, the EPace was a great driving companion.

Performance – well, aside from proving it’s off-road credentials (very good indeed), the EPace certainly had the on-road get up and go for some pretty impressive driving. The D240 will crack 60mph in 7.0 seconds and on to a smidge under 140mph, while claiming to be able to return 45mpg. The P300 will shave 1.1 seconds from that and get you over 150mph, returning 35mpg. Not bad at all… back down the range, the D150 will take 9.9 seconds, the D180 a respectable 8.7, both claiming 50mpg. Perhaps a D180 could be the best of both worlds. The lower powered P250 petrol doesn’t give away much to the P300, so if diesel is off the cards, you could look there.

No matter which model – EPace or R-Dynamic – or which of the four trim levels, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. The brief look at the launch event was a taste of better to come – I can’t wait for a longer drive to see how it fares day-to-day in the UK, but one thing’s for sure – it’ll be a winner for Jaguar. riddle_stop 2

 

Enquires: www.jaguar.co.uk/jaguar-range/e-pace/index.html

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